Johannesburg - While statistics reveal the rate of baby abandonment in South Africa is harrowing, what is more alarming is that the full extent of the problem is unknown.
This is because many newborn babies who are often dumped in places where they are unlikely to survive such as bins, velds and even gutters, are never found.
However, a 2018 study conducted by the Medical Research Council revealed that about 3500 children survive abandonment every year.
It is estimated that for every one child found alive, two are found dead.
The same research found that 65% of abandoned children are newborns, and 90% are under the age of one.
The findings suggested that a child born in South Africa is at the highest risk of being killed during its first six days of life.
These findings were corroborated by child protection activist and change management consultant Dee Blackie who told the Saturday Star that according to her research, the majority of babies were newborn or in the first week of their lives.
“These statistics are supported by morgue statistics that indicate that South African children are most likely to die unnaturally in the first week of their lives.”
Blackie said according to research she conducted in 2016/17, there was an increase in anonymous abandonment where the parents were unknown and as a result, family reunification couldn’t be considered.
“These babies often survive but have a range of long-term complications due to their prematurity and the trauma of their births,” said Blackie.
Those at organisations Door of Hope and Baby Haven added that the babies they received were often only a few days or weeks old.
“The most common age of children we receive are newborn babies who often still have an umbilical cord attached,” Door of Hope operations director Nadene Grabham said.
She said in 2015, at least 14 babies out of the annual intake were abandoned.
“In the past 12 months, at least 22 babies of our overall intake have been abandoned babies,” she said.
Grabham said she found the most common periods when babies are abandoned and taken to Door of Hope was around the festive period, as well as August and September.
Meanwhile, Johannesburg Child Welfare assistant director Carol Bews said although they were dealing with slightly less abandonment cases, she noticed an increase in unsafe abandonments as opposed to a few years ago.
“Children are abandoned in places where they are likely not to survive,” said Bews.
In 2010, Child Welfare SA, which includes Cape Town, Joburg and KwaZulu-Natal, estimated that about 3500 children were abandoned into their care.